In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Daniel

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Collected Essays
  • Bibliographies
  • Surveys of Scholarship
  • Noncanonical Daniel Literature from Qumran
  • Language

Biblical Studies Daniel
Carol Newsom
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0026


The book of Daniel contains a collection of short narratives about Daniel and his three friends at the courts of pagan kings (chapters 1–6), followed by a series of apocalyptic visions received by Daniel (chapters 7–12). In Christian canons the book is placed with the prophetic works, following Ezekiel, whereas in the Jewish canon Daniel is grouped with the writings, following the Megillot and preceding Ezra. The book of Daniel played a major role in the development of modern historical criticism, since historical critical methods cast doubt on the book’s claims that Daniel was a historical figure from the time of the Babylonian exile who saw visions of a distant future. Modern scholarship now judges that the book had a long process of development. Although oral traditions concerning Daniel may indeed go back to the end of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (mid-6th century BCE), the story collection appears to have taken shape during the Persian period and to have reached its final form in the early Hellenistic era (3rd century BCE). The apocalypses, however, can be closely dated to the time of the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes (168–164 BCE). Additional literature about Daniel was also produced. Some of these compositions (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and Additions to Daniel 3) are considered canonical by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Other noncanonical Danielic compositions have been discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The book was widely influential both in early Judaism and in Christianity.

General Overviews

The most comprehensive of these general introductions is Collins 1998. For information on the figure of Daniel, see Lacocque 1988. Briefer introductions to the book are in Collins 1992 and Towner 2007.

  • Collins, John J. “Daniel, Book of.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 2. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 29–37. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

    A more compact introduction than Collins 1998. The entry provides a fairly lengthy bibliography of older works. See also the related entry “Daniel, Additions to” in this volume.

  • Collins, John J. “Daniel.” In The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to the Jewish Matrix of Christianity. 2d ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

    See pp. 85–115 for an overview of the book and its salient issues by one of the foremost interpreters of the book.

  • Lacocque, André. Daniel in His Time. Studies on Personalities of the Old Testament. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

    A series of essays on Daniel that discusses major features and issues. Lacocque argues that the author was one of the Hasidim. The work also serves as a larger introduction to the Jewish apocalyptic, which is interpreted as a response to the exilic crisis.

  • Towner, W. Sibley. “Daniel, Book of.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 2. Edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, 15–22. Nashville: Abingdon, 2007.

    A succinct and accessible introduction that reflects early-21st-century trends in the interpretation of the book. See also the related entries “Daniel,” “Daniel, Additions to,” and “Daniel, Pseudepigrapha of” in this volume.

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